HI staff at a geriatric center that hosts people displaced by the war in Ukraine. | © C. Tahiroglu / HI
Among the millions displaced by violent warfare in Ukraine, elderly persons are among the most vulnerable. HI provides individual and group services to help cope with distress.
HI mobile teams of mental health and psychosocial support specialists are supporting people displaced by the ongoing war in Ukraine. The teams, recruited and trained by HI, support a total of 10 different collective centers in Chernivtsi and Dnipro, such as geriatric centers, orphanages and schools that are housing displaced persons.
“HI is providing both individual psychosocial services and group activities to support people in the collective centers,” says Caglar Tahiroglu, HI mental health and psychosocial support specialist. “We have a unique action plan for each of the structures that we design and develop alongside the residents, and we are already seeing positive impacts.”
“In the geriatric centers, we have begun encouraging people to participate in volunteer and leisure activities, including cooking, crafting, and playing games,” Caglar says.
In a recent donation to one geriatric center, HI provided books, embroidery materials, felting materials, craft beads, knitting needles, yarn, board games (chess and dominos), notebooks, and art supplies among other recreational items.
Taras, a man with a visual disability staying in a collective center, was particularly pleased by the donation of a german accordion. He can now play music to entertain himself and is thrilled to perform for fellow residents of the center. An acoustic guitar was also included in the donation.
“Elderly people have been very neglected and are really affected by this war,” Caglar says. “With the activities that we are putting in place, we are really trying to reinforce their capacity to cope with distress and help accompany them through this difficult time.”
“In situations of war, explains Caglar Tahiroglu, there are huge changes which can have a significant impact on older people. They are exposed to highly distressing events, often where they had to be urgently evacuated from their homes. In cases of limited mobility, they are sometimes put in blankets to evacuate because they cannot walk on their own.”
“Older people tend to have particularly strong attachments to their houses, their families, and belongings that represent memories throughout their lives. During displacement, they lose these cherished things and don’t know if they will ever return. When we go to geriatric collective centers, we see some people in their beds, crying due to the high level of distress,” Caglar says.
“What they really need is human connection. They lost all their community support, which is one of the biggest risk factors of displacement. In addition to the recreational activities, HI is organizing psychosocial information groups and trying to mobilize community resilience through support groups for them.”